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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Review: Thirty Days by Annelies Verbeke

Title: Thirty Days
Author: Annelies Verbeke
Format: Paperback
Publisher: World Editions
Publish Date: August 8, 2016
Source: Publisher


What’s the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: “Alphonse, funny, observant and imaginative, is a former musician who has left Brussels with his girlfriend Cat to live near her parents in the buttoned-up rural district of Westhoek. It has open fields, wide, low skies, more World War I graves than almost anywhere in Europe—and one of the highest suicide rates in the western world. Alphonse starts a new life as a handyman. As he paints and decorates the interior of people's homes, he gets to know their complex emotional lives—their affairs, family disturbances, messy divorces, everyday cruelties, and unexpected dreams. But when he, Cat and a client help a group of Afghans and Syrians at a makeshift refugee camp, he learns that not all locals appreciate their work.”

My Two Cents:

This is my second review for Boekenweek 2019! “Thirty Days” is the story of Alphonse, a ex-pat navigating life in Belgium. He is married to Cat, a worldly daughter of diplomats. Alphonse wants to assimilate to his new home but the people around them don’t make it easy. He becomes a handyman and plays witness to some of the intimate moments of his neighbors. While he is very understanding of them, they view him as almost a curiosity. When he and Cat stand up for what they believe in, they ruffle feathers but Alphonse knows the cost of staying quiet comes at much too great a cost.

Our main character, Alphonse, is great. I really enjoyed following him throughout this book. He has a good heart and a tough back story. I appreciated how the author slowly unfolded all the details of his life throughout the book. I also liked Cat a lot. She and Alphonse make a great pair. Some of the other  characters in the book are definitely a bit different and provide a great juxtaposition between themselves and Alphonse and Cat.

With all that is going on in the world that weighs so heavily on all of us, this was a perfect book to read right now. Alphonse and Cat realize that they need to do something in order to take care of others. Many of the other characters in the book seem to be concerned about their own perceived problems rather than the plight of others. 

I enjoyed the writing of the book and know that these characters will stick with me for a long time to come!



Review: We & Me by Saskia de Coster

Title: We & Me
Author: Saskia de Coster
Publisher: World Editions
Publish Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Publisher




What’s the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: “Written from several different perspectives, We and Me covers the time period between 1980 and 2013 and focuses on the aristocratic Vandersanden family. Set in their opulent private estate located atop a mountain, neuroses, claustrophobia, scandal and rebellion run rife. At the heart of the family and the novel is Sarah, whose coming of age is both daringly and sensitively explored in de Coster’s skillful prose”

My Two Cents:

In “We & Me” is a quietly observant story of a family made up of a mother, father, and daughter. This book covers almost thirty years in the life of this family. Their life seems not unfamiliar to many other families - they struggle with the same thoughts and the same struggles throughout the book. Some of the characters grow more than others. I was excited to read this book as part of Boekenweek and as an introduction to Saskia de Coster, who has won a few literary accolades.

This book started out slowly for me. We see how the family interacts with each other. Sarah, the daughter of the family, is very young when the book opens. In a lot of ways, she is the character that grows and changes the most throughout the book. I did like following her journey throughout the book. Some of the other characters just don’t seem to learn throughout the book, which was a bit frustrating.

De Coster does a great job of writing complicated characters. These characters are not necessarily likeable but you get a good feel for what drives them and what makes them tick. I did appreciate all of the observations and this is very much a character-driven novel rather than action. 

Overall, there are some pretty keen observations of human behavior throughout the book. This would be a good pick for anyone interested in character studies.








Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Giveaway: A Dog's Way Home!






It's time for another giveaway! Today I am excited to be able to giveaway a copy of the blu-ray and the book of "A Dog's Way Home."

Interested? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please).


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 25, 2019

Giveaway Winners!







You are the lucky winner of "Sweet Bitter Cane:"
Cassandra D.

Friday, March 22, 2019

It's Boekenweek!

I am so happy to be participating in Boekenweek 2019! It's an annual celebration of books in the Netherlands and Belgium and has been celebrated since 1932. World Editions, a publisher dedicated to getting translated works into English and into the hands of readers, has all sorts of plans for Boekenweek! This fits in perfectly with my goal to read a book from every country this year.

I will be hosting reviews on Saturday, March 30th for "We & Me" and "Thirty Days!" Get psyched!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Title: The Water Cure
Author: Sophie Mackintosh
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Doubleday
Publish Date: January 8, 2019
Source: Library






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.

But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day three strange men wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?"


My Two Cents:

"The Water Cure" is the story of three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky, who have always been protected from the world by their parents. When their father dies suddenly, he leaves behind his wife and his daughters to fend themselves from the world, a world that is very dangerous for women.

I was super intrigued by the premise of this book and oh, how I have loved the onslaught of new speculative and sci-fi fiction that seems to be cascading out of the book industry lately. I love when familiar things are turned on their head, which is certainly what you have here with "The Water Cure." The rules and norms in this book to include all of the rituals that the sisters are familiar with and go through in this book is fascinating.

World-building is always super important to me in speculative fiction. To me, this is where I was looking for more from this book. We get a sense of the world that the sisters are living in but I wanted to know the origin. I can't say much without giving anything away but a lot of the reality of how the world is is definitely left up to the reader to determine. I wanted more detail: How long had things been like this? How did things get to be like this?

This book had a lot of promise but I wanted to know more about the world in which this family lives in.


 
 



Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Review: A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

Title: A Dangerous Collaboration
Author: Deanna Raybourn 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: March 12, 2019
Source: Publisher





What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell is whisked off to a remote island off the tip of Cornwall when her natural historian colleague Stoker's brother calls in a favor. On the pretext of wanting a companion to accompany him to Lord Malcolm Romilly's house party, Tiberius persuades Veronica to pose as his fiancée--much to Stoker's chagrin. But upon arriving, it becomes clear that the party is not as innocent as it had seemed. Every invited guest has a connection to Romilly's wife, Rosamund, who disappeared on her wedding day three years ago, and a dramatic dinner proves she is very much on her husband's mind.

As spectral figures, ghostly music, and mysterious threats begin to plague the partygoers, Veronica enlists Stoker's help to discover the host's true motivations. And as they investigate, it becomes clear that there are numerous mysteries surrounding the Romilly estate, and every person present has a motive to kill Rosamund..."


My Two Cents:

"A Dangerous Collaboration" is the fourth book in the wonderful Veronica Speedwell mystery series by Deanna Raybourn. This is such a fun series and this was another good entry. In this episode, Veronica must pose as Stoker's brother's fiance in order to sneak into the Romilly house where a host of mysteries awaits. There's nothing like a mysterious estate full of secrets to make for a good read.

While I have really enjoyed this series and have liked all of the books, you certainly don't need to have read all of the other books in order to pick this one up. You may miss out on the nuances of the relationships between some of the characters (the banter and relationship between Veronica and Stoker has been so charming). So while not necessary, I think you will appreciate the book more if you read the other few first.

Speaking of Veronica and Stoker, they really make this series tick. The back and forth between them is so funny and so full of chemistry. I love seeing how they bring out the best of each other and how they bounce ideas off of each other about the secrets throughout the book. They make a great team and truly made for an entertaining read.

This continues to be a great series and I am very excited to see what the next book has in store for Veronica and Stoker!


 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Giveaway: Mary Poppins Returns Prize Pack


I'm very excited to be able to give away a "Mary Poppins Returns" prize pack. Thank you to Think Jam for this opportunity. The prize pack includes:
  • 1 Blu-ray Combo Pack of Mary Poppins Returns 
  • 1 Mary Poppins Compact Mirror with digital messaging
 I missed this movie when it came out in the theaters and I hope I get to see it soon!
Interested in winning? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (U.S. only, please!):
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Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt by Stephanie Thornton

Title: American Princess: A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: March 12, 2019
Source: Author and Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Alice may be the president's daughter, but she's nobody's darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves--oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.

But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it's no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument--and Alice intends to outlast them all."

My Two Cents:

"American Princess" is the story of Alice Roosevelt, daughter of my favorite President, Teddy Roosevelt. I love the whole Roosevelt family (cousins included) but Alice has always been terribly fascinating to me. In a family full of boisterous, big personality people, she still found plenty of ways to make herself well known. She was a celebrity of her time with media following her every move. She was also smart, strategic, and savvy. Her life was also very tumultuous! Thornton explores all of these aspects with panache and fine attention to detail!

The problem (if you can call it that) of being so involved with the book world is that sometimes you find out about books long before they are released and waiting for books like this one can be super difficult. I found out about this pretty much as soon as it sold and I have been waiting and waiting for it. I was definitely not disappointed and it's true, good things come to those who wait.

Alice is such a good character. The book begins when she is a young debutante angling for the way to make the biggest splash so we get to meet her fairly young. The book goes through all of the trials and travails of being the First Daughter and trying to navigate the scrutiny. As with everything else in her life, Alice goes her own way and makes up her rules as she goes along. I loved watching her make her way through so many decades of American history.

Love triangles, particularly historic love triangles, are fascinating to me. Alice marries Nicholas Longworth and it's an amazing political dynasty match but her heart belongs to William Borah, eloquent Senator from Idaho. Oh, boy - watching how these three sides merge and grapple with each other was fantastic! I don't want to give anything away but I loved how the author infused so many of the complicated emotions that would accompany such a high profile triangle.

It is no secret that I have loved Thornton's other books. I love her writing style and that she chose to make Alice the narrator, giving us a front row seat to her life. This was a very effective mechanism for getting me into the book. Alice has a truly unique voice and this was a wonderful tribute to a wonderfully wild woman!


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

TLC Book Tours: The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood

Title: The Quintland Sisters
Author: Shelley Wood
Format: ARC
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: March 5, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Reluctant midwife Emma Trimpany is just 17 when she assists at the harrowing birth of the Dionne quintuplets: five tiny miracles born to French farmers in hardscrabble Northern Ontario in 1934. Emma cares for them through their perilous first days and when the government decides to remove the babies from their francophone parents, making them wards of the British king, Emma signs on as their nurse.

Over 6,000 daily visitors come to ogle the identical “Quints” playing in their custom-built playground; at the height of the Great Depression, the tourism and advertising dollars pour in. While the rest of the world delights in their sameness, Emma sees each girl as unique: Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Marie, and Émilie. With her quirky eye for detail, Emma records every strange twist of events in her private journals.

As the fight over custody and revenues turns increasingly explosive, Emma is torn between the fishbowl sanctuary of Quintland and the wider world, now teetering on the brink of war."

My Two Cents:

"The Quintland Sisters" tells the story of the Dionne quintuplets, a famous set of siblings born in Canada in the 1930s. While quintuplets are still not common, they were really not common back then as this was well before the age of fertility interventions like IVF and the like. The Dionne sisters become celebrities of a sort almost from the time that they were born. They 

If you've followed my reviews or my blog for any length of time, you may know that I have twin girls. They are identical and we get a lot of attention when we go out. I can't begin to imagine what it would be like to have quintuplets and the uproar that it would still cause today. The Dionne family had people parking outside of their home waiting to catch a glimpse of the babies napping. Even from their earliest days, the Dionne sisters' lives are strange. I liked how the author was able to capture the uproar that constantly seems to thrum in the background of the girls' lives. 

I liked that the book was narrated by Emma, a nurse whose first taste of nursing comes from helping to deliver the Dionne girls. She loves these girls and is protective of them as much as she can be. I really enjoyed seeing things through her eyes. We see as the girls' lives are upended over and over again throughout the book. People like Emma become some of the only constants that they had.

I felt so bad for the Dionne quintuplets throughout the book. You have to wonder what not having much of a childhood and constantly being on display must have been like. The book certainly gives us a taste of that and made for an enjoyable albeit sad read.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

HFVBT Book Trailer Blast: The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

The Lost History of Dreams by Kris Waldherr

Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Atria Books
Hardcover & eBook; 320 Pages
Genre: Historical/Gothic/Mystery
A post-mortem photographer unearths dark secrets of the past that may hold the key to his future, in this captivating debut novel in the gothic tradition of Wuthering Heights and The Thirteenth Tale. All love stories are ghost stories in disguise. When famed Byronesque poet Hugh de Bonne is discovered dead of a heart attack in his bath one morning, his cousin Robert Highstead, a historian turned post-mortem photographer, is charged with a simple task: transport Hugh’s remains for burial in a chapel. This chapel, a stained glass folly set on the moors of Shropshire, was built by de Bonne sixteen years earlier to house the remains of his beloved wife and muse, Ada. Since then, the chapel has been locked and abandoned, a pilgrimage site for the rabid fans of de Bonne’s last book, The Lost History of Dreams. However, Ada’s grief-stricken niece refuses to open the glass chapel for Robert unless he agrees to her bargain: before he can lay Hugh to rest, Robert must record Isabelle’s story of Ada and Hugh’s ill-fated marriage over the course of five nights. As the mystery of Ada and Hugh’s relationship unfolds, so does the secret behind Robert’s own marriage—including that of his fragile wife, Sida, who has not been the same since the tragic accident three years ago, and the origins of his own morbid profession that has him seeing things he shouldn’t—things from beyond the grave. Kris Waldherr effortlessly spins a sweeping and atmospheric gothic mystery about love and loss that blurs the line between the past and the present, truth and fiction, and ultimately, life and death.

Here is the exclusive Book Trailer...

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Praise for The Lost History of Dreams

“Scheherazade-like . . . haunting. . . Waldherr avoids cliché in her rich descriptions and hints of supernatural presence that never cross into melodrama. Additionally, while most gothic tales offer only darkness and tragedy, a surprising amount of light and joy imbues the ending here. Fitting, perhaps, for a novel that uses stained glass as a symbol for heavenly possibility, even in the face of death. Waldherr writes that “love stories are ghost stories in disguise.” This one, happily, succeeds as both.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Wuthering Heights meets Penny Dreadful in Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams, a dark Victorian epic of obsessive love, thwarted genius, and ghostly visitations….Eerily atmospheric and gorgeously written, The Lost History of Dreams is a Gothic fairy-tale to savor." --Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network and The Huntress  "The Lost History of Dreams refuses to be categorized as anything other than excellent. Within the framework of a gothic, Kris Waldherr confronts our ideas about love, grief, poetry, and the nature of storytelling. With skillfully nested stories, Waldherr has done the remarkable, rendering the ephemeral into something real and tangible. Brooding, romantic, and thoughtful, The Lost History of Dreams is a rare bird in that it shines throughout with wit. I loved every page of it." --Erika Swyler, bestselling author of The Book of Speculation "Reminiscent of du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel, The Lost History of Dreams is a complex, haunting and deeply absorbing historical novel that is sure to delight fans of classic Gothic fiction. With luminous prose, stunning poetry and a fascinating cast of characters, Waldherr weaves a wonderfully atmospheric tale. Not to be missed!" --Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home and The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter “In The Lost History of Dreams, Kris Waldherr delivers a novel of haunting mystery and passion reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and Byatt's Possession. Layered within the pages of this gorgeous gothic tale is a story of several loves, each masterfully wrought in dazzling, poetic detail that will leave the reader longing for more." --Crystal King, author of Feast of Sorrow and The Chef's Secret  "In this accomplished debut, Kris Waldherr transports the reader to the fascinating world of Victorian England and its tradition of post-mortem photography with a deft hand. An atmospheric tale of lost love, family secrets, and an inquiry into how our own histories define us, I relished every poetic page. Mesmerizing, lyrical, and deliciously brooding, THE LOST HISTORY OF DREAMS is a terrific contribution to Gothic literature." --Heather Webb, international bestselling author of Last Christmas in Paris "The Lost History of Dreams plunges the reader into a sumptuous feast for all the senses. Through the perspective of a very Victorian yet empathetic male protagonist, Waldherr cleverly depicts the confining roles women of the era were forced to play. This creepily delicious tale will rob readers of their sleep as it asks and answers its own question: "'How can there be so much beauty in this world amid so much sorrow?' The only solution was to create more beauty." With this novel, Waldherr has done exactly that." --Clarissa Harwood, author of Impossible Saints and Bear No Malice "Kris Waldherr's The Lost History of Dreams is very aptly titled, as reading this novel feels indeed like entering into a dream, one from which I have yet to fully awaken. With beautiful prose and poetry, Waldherr weaves a darkly seductive Gothic tale of love, art, death, and obsession. You'll want to keep reading this one late into the night." --Alyssa Palombo, author of The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

About the Author

Kris Waldherr is an award-winning author, illustrator, and designer. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, and her fiction has been awarded with fellowships by the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts and a reading grant by Poets & Writers. Kris Waldherr works and lives in Brooklyn in a Victorian-era house with her husband, the anthropologist-curator Thomas Ross Miller, and their young daughter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

Trailer Blast Schedule

Giveaway

Kris is hosting a The Lost History of Dreams giveaway worth $220! The gift package includes a Campo Marzio pen gift box with calligraphy nibs and ink, a handcrafted Lover's Eye pendant, bookmark and bookplate, and a signed copy of The Lost History of Dreams.

Learn more at http://www.losthistorybook.com/sweepstake.html.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Giveaway: G.S. Johnston

Today, I am excited to be giving away an ebook copy of "Sweet Bitter Cane." Check out my review here!


Interested? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below (open internationally!)!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Giveaway Winners!







Where the Forest Meets the Stars:
Sherry F.

Winter Sisters:
Terry M.

Congratulations!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

TLC Book Tours: The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Title: The Huntress
Author: Kate Quinn
Format: Paperback
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: February 26, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins






What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…

Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.

British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.

Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear."


My Two Cents:

"The Huntress" definitely ranks as one of my most anticipated 2019 releases and whenever I put a book on that kind of pedestal, I'm always a little worried that it won't live up to my anticipation. After WWII, Jordan is living in Boston with her family and dreaming about becoming a war photographer. Little does she know that the echoes of the war will find her right where she is. Add the story of Nina, a strong Soviet pilot who is driven by what she saw during the war as she tries to help out her husband Ian, a Nazi hunter and you have the beginnings of a really amazing story that I couldn't put down.

Where to start with this book? The writing is amazing. I know that I am always in really good hands with Quinn but this book was especially impressive. We get to know many of our characters in different time periods throughout the war and Quinn is a master of weaving all of these different stories together into a really wonderfully rich story where there's more than meets the eye at every turn. The author does an amazing job of dropping little clues throughout the book that hint at what's to come. I love when an author can force me to question what's going on and whether or not everything is as straightforward as it seems. This book was such a good ride!

I have to mention the characters. Usually in a book like this with so many different characters, I definitely have a favorite but the great thing about this book is that all of the characters are so rich. You at least get a bit of a back story for most of them so you feel like you understand what makes them tick a little bit more. I loved Jordan and Nina. Both of them are so different but they both have a really cool fierceness and drive to make things right. And I don't want to give too much away but the best (and creepiest) villains are the ones that hide in plain sight and are able to hide all of the evilness away until the time comes. Until then, they seem completely nice, caring, and normal.

The story line itself was so good. I have read a lot about World War II so that part of the book was familiar to me. I loved learning about Nina's Night Witches (what an amazing group). I had never given to much thought about what happened after the war and how driven people would be to hide their pasts. I always like to believe in justice for crimes committed but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people get away with a lot of terrible things and there were Nazis who were able to go on to create new lives after the war. Not everyone gets their comeuppance but I loved seeing justice served in this book.

This was a wonderful book!


 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

Title: The Wolf and the Watchman
Author: Niklas Natt och Dag
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: March 5, 2019 (Today!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "It is 1793. Four years after the storming of the Bastille in France and more than a year after the death of King Gustav III of Sweden, paranoia and whispered conspiracies are Stockholm’s daily bread. A promise of violence crackles in the air as ordinary citizens feel increasingly vulnerable to the whims of those in power.

When Mickel Cardell, a crippled ex-solider and former night watchman, finds a mutilated body floating in the city’s malodorous lake, he feels compelled to give the unidentifiable man a proper burial. For Cecil Winge, a brilliant lawyer turned consulting detective to the Stockholm police, a body with no arms, legs, or eyes is a formidable puzzle and one last chance to set things right before he loses his battle to consumption. Together, Winge and Cardell scour Stockholm to discover the body’s identity, encountering the sordid underbelly of the city’s elite. Meanwhile, Kristofer Blix—the handsome son of a farmer—leaves rural life for the alluring charms of the capital and ambitions of becoming a doctor. His letters to his sister chronicle his wild good times and terrible misfortunes, which lead him down a treacherous path.

In another corner of the city, a young woman—Anna-Stina—is consigned to the workhouse after she upsets her parish priest. Her unlikely escape plan takes on new urgency when a sadistic guard marks her as his next victim."


My Two Cents:

"The Wolf and the Watchman" is a gritty, noir of a historical mystery. Taking place in the late 1700s, we meet three characters: a watchman, a detective, and a woman trying to outrun a bad reputation. Each of their stories are initially told separately, giving sort of a short story feel to the book initially. Then the author brings them together for some shocking results that kept me reading. This book took a bit for me to see where it was going but it had some great action that kept me going until the pieces started coming together.

The writing of the book was good. The author uses a lot of description and I loved the way that he was able to weave so much into the background of the book. All the description really kept me going. I must say that some of it may prove a bit much for some readers; some of the descriptions may be too gritty. It worked really well for me though because it made me appreciate more what the characters are seeing and doing throughout the book.

I loved the sense of the scenery that the author created in this book. I haven't read all that much about Sweden and certainly not much at all set in this time period. I loved the dark world of Stockholm that the author created. He gives a lot of good detail and this book proved to be quite atmospheric. It does take awhile for all of the pieces to begin to come together (well over half of the book) and I did wish that it moved a bit faster but overall, this was still a good historical mystery!




 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel by Matti Friedman

Title: Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel
Author: Matti Friedman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: March 5, 2019 (Tomorrow!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The four spies at the center of this story were part of a ragtag unit known as the Arab Section, conceived during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders in Palestine. Intended to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage and assassinations, the unit consisted of Jews who were native to the Arab world and could thus easily assume Arab identities. In 1948, with Israel’s existence in the balance during the War of Independence, our spies went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the next two years operating out of a kiosk, collecting intelligence, and sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised as a clothesline. While performing their dangerous work these men were often unsure to whom they were reporting, and sometimes even who they’d become. Of the dozen spies in the Arab Section at the war’s outbreak, five were caught and executed. But in the end the Arab Section would emerge, improbably, as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency."

My Two Cents:

"Spies of No Country" is the story of four Jewish men who could pass as Arab and were able to move through the world assuming Arab identities. This book covers two different chapters: one when these men were spying back before Israel existed as a state and then after Israel became a state and they continued their spying in Beirut. This was a fascinating book that gives you just a taste of everything that these men went through.

Spies are always interesting to me, especially when they are able to pass seamlessly into the environments that they find themselves spying in. I had never given much thought to what it would take for a spy to go unnoticed in a place such as Palestine during and just after World War II. The tension there would have been massive and the entire environment would have been so unstable.

I enjoyed learning about these men and I appreciated that Friedman was able to count on firsthand interviews from one of the men (that research is absolutely priceless!!!). I did wish that the book included more detail. In many ways, the book is a collection of missions. I wanted to know a little more context but I always appreciate when a book whets my appetite to go do more research on my own. This was a solid non-fiction!


 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Reading Challenge Update!


As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!

I read books from this many countries this month:
7
You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.
I've read a total of 20 books so far for this challenge. I definitely slowed down a little bit this month but it was somewhat due to waiting for my holds to come in at the library! I'm hoping to pick up steam in March.
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